Lexington County woman pleads guilty to insurance fraud

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) – March 29, 2019 – South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announces that Brenda M. Leno, 55, of Lexington, South Carolina, entered a plea of guilty on March 27, 2019 on an insurance fraud charge.  Leno pleaded guilty to one count of Making a False Statement or Misrepresentation $1,000 or More.

The Honorable Frank Addy accepted the plea and sentenced Mrs. Leno to 18 months in prison, which was suspended to 5 years of probation.  A special condition of her probation is that she pay $18,000 of restitution to the insurance company, the amount she received through the fraud.  She is allowed to pay $100/month for the term of probation.  The remainder of any money owed will be converted to a civil judgment against Mrs. Leno.

“Some people seem to think insurance fraud is a victimless crime because the money comes from a big insurance company,” said Attorney General Wilson. “But this kind of fraud is paid for by all of us through higher insurance rates. We’ll continue to go after people who commit insurance fraud.”

The fraud took place between February 1, 2014 and February 22, 2016.  Mrs. Leno’s then-common law husband, James Thames, had a Disability Insurance Policy with Constitutional Life Insurance that began paying out $1,000/month beginning in 1996.  Mr. Thames died on January 31, 2014, but Mrs. Leno continued to request payments from the insurance company after her husband’s death.

During one incident where Mrs. Leno requested payment, the Defendant called Constitutional Life Insurance Company and spoke with a customer service representative on August 14, 2015.  Mrs. Leno stated that her husband was sitting with her at their Lexington County home so he could give the representative permission to talk with her.  A male got on the phone and spoke with the representative.  When asked for a policy number, date of birth, and last 4 numbers of the deceased’s social security number, the male caller provided this information.  The person on the phone was co-defendant William Jackson Johnson.

Mrs. Leno further submitted false documents to reflect medical treatments for James Thames.  As a result of all these actions, Leno collected $18,000 in benefits which were not due to her.

The case was investigated by South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Special Agent Steve Baumgardner and prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General LaRone Washington and Savanna Goude.  Mrs. Leno was represented by Wes Kirkland.

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